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Sunday Sound Thought 12 – Documenting Vs. Experiencing

Posted by on Mar 20, 2016 | 0 comments

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

I just got back from a two week vacation to the Philippines, and a lot of my more sound oriented friends asked me questions that were all variations on, “How much did you record?” The answer is just over a minute of audio.

It seems like a crime to go someplace so different from my everyday experience and not sonically document it in more detail. I’ve noticed one of my personality traits over the years though. If the purpose of my activity is not to be out collecting sounds (i.e. on vacation with my wife), I’m FAR more selective about pulling out my recorder. If I’m going to record a sound in said situation, it better be something I can unequivocally use without fuss in the future. If there’s music playing somewhere in the background…not recording. If HVAC hum is going to be present in an otherwise beautiful nature soundscape…not recording. The list goes on.

I choose to follow this philosophy because listening to record and listening just for the experience are two very different things. If I’m trying to record a sound, I’m not likely to notice how the leaves on a bush behind me are reflecting only the high frequency components of a power washer, or the unique way the different components of a helicopter modulate as it crosses the sky…seeming to break the normal laws of Doppler phenomenon. Being aware of unique occurrences of sound interactions in the environment gives me new ideas for mixing and sound design that I can use in the future.

That’s something I can’t always get while concentrating in an attempt to record a bird call in the tropics, using only a Sony M10, while the bungalow next to me blasts the AC and music echoes down from the nearby outdoor cafe.

New SFX Libraries: February Recap

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 | 0 comments

A boom mic sits in the snow recording the wintery ambience as the digital recorder sits in a GDC bag. Article by Adriane Kuzminski.

Photo: Frank ‘The Recordist’ Bry

If you are releasing a new SFX library and you would like it to be included in our recap, send us the details through our SFX Independence Submission Form.

As many of us travel to San Francisco for GDC this week, some of our fellow sound designers won’t be able treat it as a vacation with assets to create and soundscapes to design. If you are in need of endless gore, futuristic weapons, granular loops, quick and dirty waveshaping, clicking and grinding bicycles gears, whooshes of every sort, and cinematic suspense and punch, look no further than these recent libraries from SoundBits, New Sound Lab, SoundMorph, Audiomodern and StrangeLines.


Just Gore | Add On by SoundBits
Do you find yourself overwhelmed designing sounds for zombie and horror games? If the sounds of bones crushing and limbs avulsing are your bread and butter, SoundBits has a new add-on pack to breathe fresh life into your festering undead. Just Gore | Add On contains 790 sounds of blood-soaked sadism with splattering lacerations, squishy impacts, twisting rips and tears, flowing blood, clean stabs, and bone marrow cruelly exposed to the light of day. All that’s missing is your katana and a Cornetto. While this library focuses on R-rated gore, the sounds are dry enough to be added to any film or game that wants the audience to feel their characters’ pain.
(790 WAV files, 553.7 MB, 96-192kHz/24bit) (more…)

Sunday Sound Though 11 – Natural Spectrum Awareness

Posted by on Mar 13, 2016 | 6 comments

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

I’ll be honest, I lied to you last week.

…well, sort of. Talking about spectrum and perception was really all a big set up for this week’s thought.

In his book, The Great Animal Orchestra, Bernie Krause discusses the idea of Biophony; that each sound generating organism evolved in such a way that it’s voice fit into it’s surrounding soundscape so as to not compete with other organisms. If a bird doesn’t have to compete with an insect or a deer’s vocalizations, or even wind for that matter, it doesn’t have to struggle to be heard by its peers. As a result of this, natural soundscapes tend to fill the spectrum of sound. They aren’t isolated into bands. As I discussed last week, the wider the spectral content, the fuller and louder a sound seems.

This has made me wonder about how our environment affected us as we evolved within it. Perhaps this activation of more critical bands was a selective element in our evolution. There are cases of animals becoming quiet when predators are present, which would decrease the spectral content of our environment. If a human’s surroundings didn’t sound as “full” as they usually might, wouldn’t that be a clue that something is out of the ordinary? Would that help an early human survive the rigors of life in the wild? Would that also explain why we are so sensitive changes to the spectral content of sound?

Dive Into Code – Part 3 of 3

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 | 2 comments

Super Breakout for the Atari 2600 with the Atari Paddle Controller

Photo: Leonard Paul

This article is a guest contribution by Leonard Paul, president of the School of Video Game Audio. He has worked on over twenty AAA and indie games such as ‘Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2,’ ‘NHL11,’ ‘Vessel’ and ‘Retro City Rampage’ as a technical sound designer and composer, and he has also composed for documentaries like ‘The Corporation’ and the upcoming ‘Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound.’ You can visit his School of Video Game Audio website or can follow him at @SchoolGameAudio.


In the previous two installments, we looked at how C++ code works by triggering simple events in FMOD Studio for Mac. In this final installment, we’ll look at how you can add FMOD Studio to a clone of the classic video game ‘Breakout’ using Xcode on OS X. If you’re on Windows and looking for a similar tutorial, feel free to leave a comment and if there is enough interest I’ll add a bonus installment in the future. Also, feel free to download the source code and the FMOD Studio project as well as the completed application, if you just feel like playing around.

Since we want to work with games, it would be nice to test our coding skills on an actual game instead of use the basic code from the previous parts. Unfortunately, we can’t add our FMOD Studio code to just any game, since they aren’t often open source. Another issue is that games are quite complex, which makes it very difficult to correctly combine all of the elements together without any issues. I’ve opted to utilize SDL2 (Simple DirectMedia Layer 2), a free open source engine, which has been used on commercial titles including Team Fortress 2, Left for Dead 2 and DOTA 2. One advantage is that it allows us to run the code relatively unchanged on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS and Android, which are all supported by FMOD Studio as well. If you use the SDL2 audio system instead of FMOD Studio, then you can also compile to JavaScript using Emscripten and run on nearly any system with JavaScript support. (more…)

Sunday Sound Thought 10 – Spectral Loudness

Posted by on Mar 6, 2016 | 0 comments

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…though this week’s is a physiological than philosophical

This week’s thought isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s something that gets brought up randomly throughout the community. It’s recurrent for a good reason though…it’s the idea that you can make something seem louder by expanding the spectral content without actually increasing the volume. A wider spectral pattern activates more of the inner ear’s “critical bands.” The more bands that are activated, the louder something seems…even if the dB-SPL measurement stays the same.

Then there’s the distortion/clipping side of the coin. It makes use of this very effect to increase the perceived loudness. Distortion adds harmonics, increasing the activation of critical bands in the inner ear, but remember that it does this by changing the waveform…giving it more time in the “crest/trough zone” per cycle. It changes the RMS measurement. Depending on how it changes the wave form crest/trough, it can also increase the empirical, not just the perceived, loudness level.

Thanks for indulging me while I reminded myself of this…awareness of the spectrum is important in sound design.

Audio Design for VR – Ustwo’s Land’s End

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 | 2 comments


Guest Contribution by Todd Baker

Land’s End has been described as ‘VR for everyone’. Ustwo began the project as an investigation into new methods of interaction and navigation in VR. Anyone who has tried the new medium will be familiar with the varied reactions from users; whilst many find the immersion compelling, others can suffer with disorientation, fatigue, even VR Sickness. Land’s End focuses on minimalist, intuitive interaction, set within environments that are immersive and welcoming – giving the player space to observe and breathe. Naturally the look, feel and sound of the world are essential in terms of creating a place that players can feel comfortable exploring. (more…)

News – Film Sound Guru Randy Thom’s New Blog

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 | 1 comment

Image retrieved from IGN. Click to view source.

There’s no doubt the sound design community is one blessed with some fantastic artists who are surprisingly willing to share their experiences and insights. This fact was confirmed recently with Randy Thom’s announcement of a new blog discussing film sound. The blog, found here, already features three brief but insightful posts from Thom, and will no doubt be a source of excellent info in the future as well.

Sunday Sound Thought 9 – Constructing Which Reality?

Posted by on Feb 28, 2016 | 3 comments

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

Though it’s not the first time Randy Thom has voiced his opinions about “detail” in sound design, his first personal blog post felt like it dove-tailed in nicely with one of the ideas I had planned for this series…so much that I thought I should push it forward in the schedule. The concept of “reality” in film.

I once knew a man who considered himself a great film sound aficionado, and he explained to me a game he and his father like to play that they called “bad foley.” Ignoring the fact that the term “foley” doesn’t actually apply to the targets of their disdain, it basically boiled down to picking out sounds that had no basis in reality. They viewed this as something that should be avoided. The quickest example he gave me was the sound that accompanied the helicopter in Terminator 2…specifically, the whoosh that tracked the search light as it panned through the building. This game of his bothers me on a number of levels, but there is one primary argument I have against it.

Sound design is not about re-constructing reality, it’s about constructing a reality…one that suits the purposes of the story and augments the characters’ perspectives. As Mr. Thom said, and I’m paraphrasing here, choosing which details to present can be “the most powerful choice.” There are times when that most powerful detail might just be something we would never experience in our own personal lives.

Designing Sound GDC Game Audio Crawl

Posted by on Feb 23, 2016 | 0 comments



*** UPDATES ***

03.11.16: With over 260 RSVPs we’ve had to change the venue to not one, but four awesome bars / cafes, all within two blocks on Market Street. DS contributing editor Richard Gould will be at Brewcade from shortly before 4:00pm to hand out stickers which will signifiy you’re part of this event so you’ll know who and who not to randomly strike up a conversation with! Once you have a sticker, pick the venue that best fits your personality.

Brewcade (Retro Game Bar): 2200 Market St

Blackbird (Rustic-Modern Bar): 2124 Market St

Lucky 13 (Rock / Punk Bar): 2140 Market St

Café Flore (Relaxed Cafe, Food): 2298 Market St



Sunday Sound Thought 8 – Solipsism

Posted by on Feb 21, 2016 | 1 comment

As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…

Solipsism is the idea that the only thing that can be confirmed in life is the existence of one’s self. Whether or not we want to accept the possibility that this idea is true, an extrapolation can be made from the idea…one that is a little easier to accept. The only perspective that can be confirmed to exist is one’s own.

It’s impossible for us to see through another’s eyes, hear through their ears, or fully understand the complex impressions of the mind behind the words that people use to express themselves. Without a direct link between minds (something which we’re not currently capable of), it is impossible to truly share the sensory experience of another person. That’s something we can take advantage of in sound design.

Sound is solipsistic. Not every character needs to hear something the same way. The audience certainly won’t. Leaving room for them to interpret what those differences in character perspective (and maybe the realization that they have a different perspective as well), allows for a more complex story that feeds each individual’s experience and reaffirms their unique perspective. If you don’t believe me, go watch The Conversation (Coppola, 1974).